As I look back over the past three months, I realize that the way we work is forever changed due to the restrictions of the global pandemic. Most of us dislike change, particularly when it is forced upon us, but we adapt. The ways we market our businesses and ourselves are part of the mix. Unfortunately, many of us have taken the “casual approach” now that we are stuck at home, relegated to a small converted workspace in our house in less than ideal conditions. Your business self and your personal self are no longer distinctly defined, but rather a blurred and somewhat messy version of the two.

So, why does this matter?

Because we still need to put our best self – our professional self – forward when conducting business. This means making an effort with our personal brand. If you go to an office or attend a client meeting, you want to present yourself professionally. You want to be taken seriously. You want to close the deal. You want people to respect you. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to invest time and energy into your personal brand. As I’ve noted in a previous blog, your personal brand is a collective perception of your professional assets and your reputation.

Zoom pulled back the curtain.

Blurred Lines

I’ve worked from home since 2008, so self-quarantine was not a big deal for me. Like most of us, when I’m at home, I like to be comfortable. If I don’t have any outside meetings, I’m in my yoga pants and t-shirt; no makeup, my hair has good days and bad. However, Zoom was a game-changer! I’ll never forget the first time that someone scheduled a Zoom meeting with me. I accepted but gave little thought to the mechanics of Zoom, i.e., visual vs. auditory-only. Ten minutes before the meeting, I realized that I was not the best, most professional version of myself. So, what did I do? I put a piece of tape over my computer’s camera and apologized to my prospect. We had a good laugh, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson: I need to be more aware of my personal brand when I’m in business-mode.

Another example of blurred lines occurred when I scheduled a #Zoom-meetingZoom meeting with a vendor who I felt could help one of my clients. I had met him previously and like his approach. When we met via Zoom, my immediate reaction was, “Dude, could you have at least combed your hair?” Here he was sitting in front of the camera, wearing a sweatshirt, and looked like he just rolled out of bed. On top of that, the room in the background showed junk piled everywhere! Yes, it was distracting, and it did give me pause about hiring him to work with my client.

Perceptions Matter

Seven seconds. That’s how long you have to make a first impression. While you can change someone’s perception of you over time, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that is usually the one that sticks. Therefore, we all need to be aware of which mode we are in, business vs. personal when we are meeting and interacting with others.

For professionals such as entrepreneurs, freelancers, and consultants, a  prospect’s or client’s #first-impressionfirst impression determines whether you secure the business or not. Think about what it says to you when you see someone wearing clean, pressed business attire with combed hair and a smile versus seeing someone wearing a wrinkled t-shirt, messy hair, and a tired look on their face. Who are you more apt to want to do business with based solely on your first impression?

Working from home and holding meetings over Zoom is not an excuse to be lazy or unprofessional. Get ready as if you were going into the office or meeting the client at their place of business. Make sure you look presentable and have your materials prepared so you can speak professionally. Pick a spot with a clean background, even if that means working against a blank wall. If your makeshift home office leaves something to be desired, consider uploading a general office background to use on Zoom so your client isn’t distracted by anything they may see around you and can focus on the discussion at hand.

Be True to Your Brand

You have a short amount of time to capture your client’s attention and make a positive first impression. Now that you’ve established yourself as a consummate professional – even when working from home – focus on continuing to present yourself in the best light possible. Preparation is key. Know the facts about what you are discussing and what sets you or your business apart. What story do you want to tell? Reassure clients through your behavior and conversation that even in these turbulent times, you have not lost focus and are still committed to your mission and vision. Be authentic and genuine in your approach to build trust and credibility.

And, one last point, you can still wear your yoga pants unless you are making a full-scale presentation.

Times are changing, and you must learn how to change with them. If you’re struggling to keep up and your personal brand has become fuzzy (or lost altogether), don’t dismay. There is still time to turn things around and get back on track. YGL Enterprises has a wealth of experience assisting professionals in building (or re-building) their brand and determining how they want to be seen. Pandemic or not, who you are and the message you convey matters. Contact us today to develop a clear strategy for the future.